Measuring Precipitation with Rain Gauges

Rain gauges have been used since the ancient Greeks and even today provide an accurate method for measuring the amount of rainfall that has taken place within a specific period of time. These environmental devices are also sometimes referred to as udometers and pluviometers. A variety of different types of rain gauges is available and they vary in terms of complexity.

Among the most commonly used types of rain gauges is the tipping bucket rain gauge. This type of gauge is comprised of a funnel that is used for collecting and channeling rain into a small container that is constructed similarly to a seesaw. After a pre-determined amount of rain falls, the lever will tip and dump the water that has been collected. As the lever tips, an electrical signal will be transmitted.  Commercial grade rain gauges will be able to measure in inches or millimeters.

In choosing a tipping bucket rain gauge, it is important to ensure that the device is constructed to provide hassle-free operation while at the same time ensuring it is built to US National Weather Service specifications. Heavy-duty stainless steel and aluminum are often used in the construction of this type of rain gauge.

Tipping bucket rain gauges can provide many advantages including the fact that it makes it easy to determine the character of the precipitation, such as whether it is light, medium, or heavy. Some will allow the user to configure them to measure rainfall, or simply detect when it is raining.  Rain detection is useful if an operation or control is dependentonly on whether it is raining or not, not necessarily how much it is raining.  A good example would be the automatic deployment of an awning when it begins to rain.

There are some limitations associated with rain gauges. For instance, it can be almost impossible to collect rain data during a hurricane as a result of wind extremes. Additionally, rain gauges can only be used for indicating precipitation that has fallen within a localized area. Large municipalities and commercial agricultural facilities will use multiple rain gauges to ensure accurate rainfall measurements are taken across a given area. In choosing air temperature and humidity sensors, it is important to select sensors that are durable, accurate, and can provide repeatable results.

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